We Are The Home of Heroes
MP’s quick thinking averts catastrophe
FORT POLK, La. — Editor’s note: This is a first hand account by Sgt. Christopher Stallings, 91st Military Police Detachment, 519th Military Police Battalion.
“On Sept. 7, at about 2:30 a.m., I was asleep downstairs when someone began beating on my door and screaming for help. Upon opening the door, I realized it was my neighbor who lived on the ground floor. She stated that there was a fire in her kitchen and she had exhausted her fire extinguisher. She asked for mine. I went to my kitchen and grabbed it from above the sink and went with her toward the rear of her home. It was a shock to see how fast the fire was spreading.
Upon reaching her patio area, I saw the fire had grown and was rolling along her ceiling, far wall and coming out of the rear door. I told her that a fire extinguisher was not going to help and that we needed the fire department.
Before I joined the Army, I was a volunteer fire fighter, so I knew it had gone too far to be helped with fire extinguishers.
She stated she needed to get her cat and went towards the burning home. I managed to keep her away from the residence and called the emergency dispatcher providing the address and situation. Once they told me the fire department was coming, I went around to the middle of the apartments where the staircase was.
My military police training kicked in at that point and my main objective was to get anyone still in the building out and to safety before the fire spread any more.
I tried to stay calm for everyone around me. I told myself not to panic because that’s when mistakes happen and that could cost people their lives.
The fire was making its way to the second floor and blocking the stairs. I knocked on the adjacent downstairs apartment and notified the tenant to evacuate. As I went back toward the front, the spouse from upstairs was coming out and said her husband was trying to find their dog. A moment later her husband could be heard in their garage asking which way to go, as the smoke was thick and black. I went into the garage and grabbed his arm and led him back out. I then went to check the garage for the second floor apartment farthest from the fire to see if it was occupied. It was locked and the downstairs neighbor said sometimes they parked their car inside. I managed to breach the side entry door and go upstairs to beat on their door. It was later determined the occupant was out of the area.
Everyone seemed to be in a state of shock and confusion. I’m just glad I was able to help them in some small way. I wish I could have done more, but I’m glad they all made it out alive.
The fire department arrived and took command of the scene. I stayed back and checked on the tenants to make sure they were OK until their leadership arrived. While talking with the neighbor, I had asked her if she knew how it happened, and she said she may have left a candle lit, but wasn’t sure. I passed that information to fire department personnel as they were looking for the source of the fire. At 5 a.m.